Tech Life Moving the puzzle pieces around

Google + Sun


I wanted to go on the record and think out loud regarding the Google + Sun announcement which is is landing in about 41 minutes… so, I gotta keep this brief.

I see two scenarios here both of which don’t make much initial sense. I’m very much looking forward to being proven wrong.

Scenario #1. Google and Sun are developing a web-based office suite. There are two sub-scenarios here. They’ve built the mother of all AJAX applications OR they’re thinking they can get folks to run Java versions of these applications. I will not even discuss the Java option because to think that any Java application will come close to replicating native application user experience in terms of both performance and interaction is absurd.

So, AJAX, then? Well, it’s a fine idea, but I have seen no evidence that AJAX is ready for this sort of responsibility. I’ve been paying close attention to the folks @ 37Signals and I consider them to be on the bleeding edge of this stuff, but they’re still developing in the “app-let” space and have not crossed over to full blown applications. Their tagline: Simple software to get you organized.

Ok, maybe the WHOLE POINT OF WEB 2.0 is that my concept of traditional applications will need to change, but I’m a nerd and my Mom is not and you’re not going mainstream with any Office application if my Mom can’t use it. Last time I checked, we were still working on making it easy BOLD text inside a browser without using byzantine Wiki formatting.

Scenario #2: Sun is using Google’s distribution power to push some variant of StarOffice. (Hmmm: Yeah, I guess both Scenarios could be in play) Anyhow, the idea that because Google is everyone’s favorite search engine gives them ability to push software is as absurd as the Cool Java on the Desktop meme. Yeah, they’ve got scads of scalable cheap hardware all over the planet and I’m sure they can push bits really really fast, but what bits are they pushing? StarOffice? Quick, tell me what version they’re on. It’s version number 8. Please tell me one interesting thing that occurred between version 1 and 8…

Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

No, go ahead.

Nothing? Ok, do this. Name a single successful consumer facing application developed by Sun.

[sfx: crickets]

I do want to be inspired by whatever Google+Sun have cooked up, but as I move the puzzle pieces around in head, I do not see a scenario that makes a lot of sense. Once I’ve read whatever is going down in 28 minutes, I’ll update this entry.

[10/4/05 Update]: Here’s the updated Sun press release.

I’ll boil down this announcement to the bullet points:

– Sun will include the Google toolbar as part of Java download from their site. Quote, “There is a direct monetary value for us being a distribution mechanism for the toolbar.” Translation: Google is giving cash to Sun.

– Google will significantly increase its purchasing of Sun servers. Translation: Google is giving cash to Sun.

There’s a bunch of more blithering about the deal here, but I think I can sum this up pretty easily. Sun needs cash. Sun needs exposure. Google made an strategic investment in both today. Everything else regarding OpenOffice, Google’s involvement in driving Java, etc, etc, is interesting, but there is nothing at all revolutionary going on here. Both companies are planning to do “great things” , but that describes the mission statement of every company in the valley.

What a snooze. Why not use this event to announce you’ve done something amazing rather than trying to spin the world on that fact that you’re saving a company in distress?

10 Responses

  1. Daniel Brown 19 years ago

    All that fanfare to basically announce sun will distribute google toolbar? Why didn’t they wait until they had something worth our whilte before making a big hoopla?

  2. JohnO 19 years ago

    Rands… I think us power users sometimes forget.. all our mothers need to do is make text bold, underline, italic, different sizes, different fonts, and print it.

    The 37 Signal’s new app Writeboard is halfway there to a simple online text-editor. It has versioning(diffs) (which is only slightly different than saving, and could easily be changed in the UI to act exactly like saving). The only thing they don’t do is sizes/fonts, or wysiwig B/I/U functionality.

    I’m just hear to point out the low-end entry point. We don’t need macro’s, mail-merges, templating, for 80% of people. I know I rarely ever use any of them at home, and only one of them at work.

  3. Johno. My point exactly. How in the world can an AJAX application become mainstream when we’re still trying to get the basics working in a browser application.

  4. Yeah, I can’t think of much exciting about this. Though anything that may potentially hurt Microsoft Office (and therefore the bloated, crappy Outlook I have to use) is fine by me.

  5. JohnO 19 years ago

    Rands, there are many ways to do it (that is half the battle, everyone chooses their own… and throwing the weight of Google and Sun behind one might help – if they make a good choice).

    37S didn’t do it, because their writeboard isn’t about formatting, rather editing. Gmail does pretty much everything a basic rich editor needs to do. So smash together GMail’s rich editing with Writeboards versioning, and you have a simple, light-weight, web-based document editor. Now get some proper print styles in there (A List Apart just released an excellent article on more advanced forms of this), and it’s done. Imagine that product (working properly), and at low price point where it isn’t worth buying Office for your PC. Should be MS be scared of that?

    I definitely have to agree about the hoopla, and that this will not help either company (unless Google got a discount on Sun server for the PR effect)

  6. Reg Braithwaite 19 years ago

    “…Sun and Google have begun a strategic relationship…”

    Absolutely and without exception the word “strategic” is code for “no revenue.” 🙂

  7. anescient 19 years ago

    People, average people, still don’t need computers. People need a simple little interface box. A thin client.

    I’m sure a lot of people would be happy to pay xyz dollars per month to a service provider for lease of a thin client, a moron-proof connection to the provider, “web-based”-ish applications like editors and photo organizing wizbang gizmos and email clients provided and maintained by the provider, along with data storage with proper backups (gasp). For god’s sake, if nothing else, get the main data storage out of people’s houses.

    If you have a couple of companies, one of which can build sharp computers, and one of which can develop sharp web-based applications, and one day they start rubbing their crotches together…

    All it takes is time.

    “My computer’s broken.”

    What if the rest of that conversation went like this:

    “Did you reset it?”


    “We’re sending out a guy to swap in a new one.”



  8. Raffi Saltman 19 years ago

    Rands, when you put it like that, it reminds me of the partnership Apple and Microsoft announced in ’97.

  9. The Apple+Microsoft announcement of ’97 was front of mind when I wrote this. Go back and watch that keynote in Boston… it’s essentially the annoucement of the Think Different campaign, the restructuring of the Apple Board, and Steve’s analysis of the various market’s that Apple was succesful in spite of itself..

    That’s a ton. That’s mind blowing… even eight years later.

    You can’t tell me the Google+Sun announcement left you with the same impression